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Full text of "The Brontèˆ sisters"

36                          THE  BRONTE  SISTERS
plea to be called soon to eternity fiif this indeed be all That
life can show to me', have a grave still pathos which brings
an ache to the reader's heart. Several of her religious poems
have found a place in Methodist and Baptist hymnals,
especially The Three Guides, where Anne analyses and
rejects the spirits of Earth aiid Pride and accepts the Spirit
of Faith.
Her first novel, Agnes Grey (1847), reveals this same quiet
piety, coupled however with a cool eye for domestic
hypocrisy. Agnes, the younger daughter of an impoverished
clergyman, takes two posts as governess. In the first she is
with vulgar nouveaux riches, whose rude unruly children
spit in her workbag and throw her desk out of the window.
In the second, a household of unlettered aristocrats, she has
to cope with an insolent coquette and a horsey tomboy.
She meets and likes the new curate; the coquette separates
them; but eventually cleric and governess meet by chance
in Scarborough and decorously become engaged. These
little incidents are all narrated in the first person, simply and
briefly, in chapters headed: 'The Church', 'The Cottagers',
'The Shower', and so on.
This all sounds very mild, but in fact it has a tang of its
own because of Anne's close observation and relentless
honesty of narrative. As she tells us herself, she had an
'immutable preference' for 'wholesome truth', for depic-
ting people 'rather as they really are than as they would
wish to appear'. Her heroine is endowed with 'ordinary
brown hair; a roue has by no means the romance of a
Rochester, but a 'blotchy' face, and is 'disagreeably red
about the eyelids'; while a sister's highly approved fiance
is described as merely 'decent' in looks and 'middling' in
age. This scorn for false extremes, romantic excesses, is
typical of Anne. The scene where, just arrived, Agnes
struggles to eat cold tough meat under the eyes of her new
employers; the scene where she drops a stone on a nestful
of fledglings to prevent her pupils' putting them to torture;
the awful schoolroom scenes; the curious workings of